The National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC)

Launched Oct. 1, 2012, the National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC) is a five-year, CDC-funded effort, implemented by Nemours and partners. The project is an intervention aligned with Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs (2nd ed.), selected standards from Caring for Our Children (3rd ed.) and the goals of Let’s Move! Child Care.

As one of the nation’s leading child health organizations, Nemours is working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition to implement evidence-based, practice-tested learning collaboratives in nine states — Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey and Virginia.

Learn more about the National ECELC Program »


ECELC Project Objectives

The National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC) aims to spread impactful, sustainable policy and practice improvements in early care and education (ECE) programs to prevent childhood obesity. Partnerships will work closely with stakeholders at local, state and national levels to bring a learning collaborative model to scale nationally and achieve critical outcomes centered on:

  1. Increasing the number of programs meeting the Healthy Kids, Healthy Future best practices and Preventing Childhood Obesity (2nd ed.) standards (PCO), included in Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, (3rd ed.)
  2. Increasing the proportion of young children in programs that meet those criteria.

A subsequent outcome will be a positive impact on the healthy eating, physical activity and screen time use practices of young children and their families.

The overall objective of this project is to assist ECE providers in adopting nutrition, physical activity and screen time policies, as well as breastfeeding support practices.

Through this project and the work of its partners, Nemours is providing technical assistance and developing materials to build quality improvement capacity in these states’ ECE systems to promote sustainability. Nemours’ national network of partners will provide critical access to local and state networks of providers and support organizations. These partners and organizations will help spread awareness, enhance sustainability and aid with the initiative over time as well as to spread best practices and tools to other states and tribal territories, as decided with the CDC.

Each ECE collaborative will consist of:

  1. 5 in-person learning sessions, attended by 2-3 representatives (e.g., directors, food service personnel, staff, parent partners, etc.) from each of the 20-25 participating ECE programs
  2. ongoing technical assistance (TA) for the ECE providers participating in the collaboratives, which may include site visits as appropriate
  3. access to tools, materials, resources and curricula based on Healthy Kids, Healthy Future and the PCO standards.

As part of the National ECELC Project, providers discover how small steps can create immense change in preventing early childhood obesity. They learn about the relationship of healthy eating and physical activity to children’s health, the unique and powerful role of providers, the process of change and the potential of partnerships with families to sustain change.

Participating States

By 2014, more than 1,200 early care and education (ECE) programs in nine states joined the National ECELC Project to improve healthy eating, physical activity, screen time and breastfeeding support in their programs. Supported by state and local organizations known as “State Implementing Partners”, these programs continue to introduce policy and program changes to support healthy development, learning and growth of more than 83,000 children under five years of age.

Read success stories from ECELC programs and other Healthy Kids, Healthy Future participants. »


State Implementing PartnerAlabama Partnership for Children

Project Coordinator: Julie Odom, 

The Alabama Partnership for Children implements two learning collaboratives with 41 ECE programs serving more than 1,900 children. The collaboratives are located in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. A wide range of programs participate in ECELC including Head Start grantees, corporate, faith-based, private and non-profit centers. These collaboratives are supported by four trainers, who facilitate the learning sessions and provide technical assistance to programs between sessions.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Arizona

State Implementing Partner:Arizona Department of Health Services 

Project Coordinator: Bonnie Williams,

The AZDHS implements four learning collaboratives with 82 ECE programs serving more than 10,000 children. Supported by eight trainers, the collaboratives are located in the northern, central and southern areas of the metro Phoenix area, as well as the greater metro Tucson area. A wide range of programs participate in ECELC including Head Start grantees, corporate, faith-based, private and non-profit centers. The Arizona ECELC curriculum, known as “EmpowerPlus”, has been fully aligned with AZDHS’s “Empower” initiative which provides tools and resources to enable children to make good choices about nutrition and physical activity.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Florida

North and Central FL Implementing Partner: Nemours Children’s Health System

South FL Implementing Partner: The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe 

Project Coordinator: Kevin Cataldo,

In North and Central Florida, Nemours coordinator Kevin Cataldo brings more than 80 programs together in five learning collaboratives to explore resources, actions and strategies for providing healthy environments for more than 8,300 children. Collaboratives represent a broad geographic area including Greater Jacksonville, Orange County, Osceola County and Greater Orlando. Staff from faith-based, private, Head Start and Early Head Start programs participate in the collaboratives and receive on-going technical assistance from ten trainers.

In South Florida, Nemours Project Coordinator, Maggie Thomas, works in close collaboration with the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties to implement four learning collaboratives with the participation of nearly 90 ECE programs serving over 6,000 children. Each collaborative is organized by a distinguishing feature: early care and education (ECE) programs participating in Miami-Dade Quality Counts (Quality Rating and Improvement System/QRIS); programs currently not participating in “Quality Counts”; and a hybrid collaborative consisting of a mix of Head Start, YMCA and for-profit programs. Additionally, learning sessions and on-going technical assistance is provided by seven trainers fluent in English, Spanish or Creole.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Indiana

State Implementing Partner: Indiana Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (IACCRR)

Project Coordinator: Marta Fetterman,

In Indiana, IACCRR provides support to 172 early care and education (ECE) programs participating in four learning collaboratives across the state. Serving more than 23,000 children, these programs are based in the northwest, northeast, west central and east central regions of the state, including Indianapolis and surrounding cities. A distinguishing feature of these collaboratives is strong participation of large Head Start programs, including one program with 1,000 children. Collaborative participants also include staff from both licensed child care and unlicensed ministry programs. These collaboratives are supported by eight trainers, who facilitate the learning sessions and provide technical assistance to programs between sessions.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Kansas

State Implementing Partner: Child Care Aware of Kansas

Project Coordinator: Christi Smith,

Child Care Aware of Kansas is the administrator of the statewide Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) network. In 2013, the organization began supporting 49 early childhood programs in the “Step It Up Challenge”. Participating early care and education (ECE) programs are located in Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka. Supported by four trainers, programs identify and implement healthy changes recognized as best practices from Healthy Kids, Healthy Future and Preventing Childhood Obesity standards. Early childhood programs focus on healthy eating, increasing physical activity, reducing screen time and providing breastfeeding support. In addition, the “Step It Up Challenge” encourages programs to share effective practices and support each other in their efforts. Trainers provide guidance, encouragement and help motivate the program staff when implementing practices that meet their identified goals.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Kentucky

State Implementing Partner: Kentucky Department for Public Health  , Obesity Prevention Branch

Project Coordinator: Rebekah Duchette,

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 70 early care and education programs have joined three learning collaboratives to enhance their practices, policies and strategies for healthy environments. Over 7,500 children receive care in these programs. Participating programs represent public and private preschools, non-profit and for-profit child care environments as well as Head Start. The three collaboratives underway are located in the population-dense areas of the state. Expansion plans for four new collaboratives will expand the project to rural areas in 2015.

Los Angeles, California

National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Los Angeles, California

State Implementing Partner: The Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles 

Project Coordinator: Andrea Giese,

The Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles, a partnership of LA County’s ten Resource and Referral and Alternative Payment agencies, is working with 78 early childhood programs throughout the county to identify and implement best practices related to nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding support and screen time. Participating programs represent a diverse group of constituents and include private, non-profit, faith-based and Early/Head Start programs serving approximately 4,000 children up to age five. Participants are supported by four bilingual trainers and have been geographically divided into three collaboratives: East–cities in and around the San Gabriel Valley; Central–communities surrounding Downtown Los Angeles; and South–cities in and around the South Bay. The centers are also eligible to receive additional resources and support through “Choose Health LA Child Care”, an obesity-prevention initiative of LA County’s Department of Public Health and “First 5 LA”, which is administered through the Alliance.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Missouri

State Implementing Partner: Child Care Aware of Missouri

Project Coordinator: Megan Klenke,

Child Care Aware of Missouri has recruited a diverse set of early care and education (ECE) programs, from both urban and rural settings, to participate in three learning collaboratives. A total of 71 programs, serving more than 6,000 children, have joined a unique network of providers to learn and support each other through a process of healthy change. Supported by a group of six experienced trainers, these learning collaboratives have potential for lasting impact across the state with programs coming from Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City and surrounding areas, St. Louis City and County, as well as St. Charles County. Participating community-based ECE programs are affiliated with academic institutions, YMCA, health care providers and Head Start.

New Jersey

National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - New Jersey

State Implementing Partner: New Jersey Department of Health

Project Coordinator:Juliet Jones,

In New Jersey, the Department of Health supports 109 ECE programs participating in ECELC. Supporting more than 13,500 children, these five collaboratives represent the largest number of programs and children in the project. Supported by ten trainers, the collaboratives include programs in ten counties: Camden, Hudson, Passaic, Mercer, Middlesex, Union, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem and Essex. The majority of these programs also participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The ECELC project builds upon previous “Shaping New Jersey” efforts, which launched the use of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) tool for early care and education (ECE) programs across the state. The goal of NAP SACC is to change the behavior of staff and parents in order to create healthier lifestyles for their children and to strengthen licensing regulations to support these changes. The ECELC project will help providers achieve and sustain changes initially identified with NAP SACC.


National Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative - Virginia

State Implementing Partner: Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

Project Coordinator: Emily Keenum,

In Virginia, the “Taking Steps to Healthy Success” Early Care and Education Learning Collaboratives project resulted from the state’s unique collaborative partnership. Virginia’s three regional collaboratives works with 66 programs from Petersburg, Hopewell, Richmond, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Six trainers, experienced in quality change processes and early childhood development, partner with ECELC participants to plan and implement sustainable changes in policies and practices. The collaboratives are creating healthier care environments for more than 4,400 children.